Inspection Cameras: Articulating vs. Flexible vs. Rigid

Inspection Cameras are available in various sizes and types. Discover the difference between articulating borescopes, flexible borescopes, & rigid borescopes today.

Finding the right tool for a job is often a job unto itself. When you’ve got the right set of tools for a task, the chore is completed quickly and easily, while the wrong tools can lead to hit-or-miss results. If you’re new to the wonderful world of borescope inspection cameras, it can be hard to know which one is right for your job, but a little research can go a long way in clarifying your options.

It helps to start with a basic understanding of terminology. 

  • An “Inspection camera” is an all-purpose term for a tool used to scope out the internal workings of out-of-the-way spaces. Also known as a borescope inspection camera, it’s used by plumbers, HVAC workers, manufacturing professionals, and those in the aerospace industry. 
  • You may also have heard of fiberscopes, which are flexible borescopes that use fiber optic cables to project an image from the tip of the probe back to the eyepiece. 
  • Videoscopes accomplish something similar, sending a captured image to the camera control unit. Digital files of the inspection process are available to save and share thanks to the latest in videoscope technology

Now that you’ve got the fundamentals down, let’s dive into more specifics:

Articulating Borescopes

An articulating borescope is a flexible visual inspection tool. If you’ve got a tight space with curved walls, twisting passages, and complex piping, you’ll want one of these. Unlike other kinds of borescopes, the tips of articulating borescopes can be maneuvered up, down, to the left, and to the right. Two-way articulation provides simple options for navigation, while four-way versions allow operators total freedom in navigating tubing, channels, and pipes. There are articulating borescopes available between 3mm and 8mm, with various working lengths, tip angulations, resolutions, and constructions. There’s no job that can’t benefit from the use of an articulating borescope, and it’s especially popular with auto mechanics, aerospace industry professionals, and plumbers.

When you don’t need to move the angle of the camera mid-inspection, a non-articulating borescope can get the task done. The difference lies in the makeup of the insertion tube. Articulating borescopes feature steel wires for maximum flexibility and movement. Non-articulating versions don’t contain steel wires in the insertion tube. This results in a slightly easier assembly process and, generally speaking, a lower cost. 

Whether you need articulation capabilities or not, you might look into video borescopes to assist in the inspection process. 

Flexible Borescopes

Flexible borescopes are another versatile inspection tool. Like articulating borescopes, they’re useful in winding through complex channels for an up-close look at the piping or machinery being inspected. The difference between these two options lies with the flexibility of their insertion tubes. Articulating borescopes feature an adjustable tip that can be angled in any direction, while flexible inspection cameras allow operators to adjust the entire insertion tube through the area being inspected. This makes flexible options the clear choice for snaking through complicated channels.

A fiberscope is ideal for navigating the twists and turns of complicated machinery. It’s no wonder so many professionals rely on them to inspect their engines, pipes, and channels. This kind of inspection camera allows the operator to check out even the smallest of spaces. Some are as small as 2mm in diameter, giving users the chance to look inside spots previously unseen by the naked eye. Aerospace engineers frequently rely on these tools to look inside the coolant holes of turbine blades for damage.

Rigid Inspection Devices

Not every job requires flexibility. A rigid inspection camera can provide unique access to hard-to-reach areas, but unlike flexible inspection cameras, they hold their shape as you use them. The main advantage of a rigid inspection camera is its clarity of image. Since rigid borescopes use mirrors and lenses to project images to the eyepiece, the quality is crystal clear. 

Rigidity is a requirement for some jobs. If you’re inspecting an air vent overhead, for instance, you’ll want a tool that’s not fighting gravity while you use it. Since this kind of inspection camera holds its shape, you can insert it over your head without worrying about it falling back out as you maneuver it around. HVAC workers and those in the manufacturing industry in particular find rigid inspection cameras useful on the job. Typical diameters of such tools range from 2.7mm up to 10mm, with lengths of 175mm to 305mm on average. 

The Tools You Need at Prices You’ll Love

No matter what industry you’re operating in, an inspection camera can make routine inspections easier, faster, and more thorough than ever. If you’re eager to purchase one for your organization but aren’t sure which model is right for the job, USABorescopes can help. Contact us today and allow our team to guide you to the right tool for the job!

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